While America Slept. Monday, December 1, 2008

while america slept monday december 1 2008
Ok, girls and boys, we are entering the last lap of the year. Prepare for one more month of bad news – then it will be over. The year. A lot of bad news already happened before you had your wheaties: While America Slept is a daily round-up of the news that happened in other continents and time-zones. TTAC provides round-the-clock coverage of everything that has wheels. Or that has its wheels coming off. Buckle up and be safe. (If you don’t like WAS, read the last entry. You’ll find yourself delighted!)

It’s official: Nipponese share US distaste of new cars: Japan Automobile Dealers’ Association published their November domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses. They (the sales) are ugly: Down 27.3 percent on the year, down for the fourth straight month, and nearly twice as down as in October (-13.1 percent.) According to Nikkei (sub) “auto sales will likely fall this year to the lowest volume in decades on the economic slump that has seen Japan enter a recession.” Expect more bad news “from those wonderful folks who brought you Pearl Harbor.” (Not my bad taste, Della Femina did it!) For instance: The closely watched Japanese golf club index just sunk to 1.77 million yen, down 33 percent from its 2.64 million yen peak in May 2007.

Nissan ready, set, fire! Maybe: In the flak trade, it’s called “softening the blow.” Nissan’s COO Toshiyuki Shiga said today to the Nikkei (sub) “that future sales will determine whether Nissan will need to cut more jobs.” Although Shiga-Sama said it’s too early to predict the company’s personnel strategy, we all know the likely outcome. See above. And there is more …

“I want my CVT:” Continuous variable transmissions (CVTs) are popular with the folks, they help improving fuel economy by 10 to 25 percent, and are planet-friendly. Suzuki will put them in all its minivehicles, the Nikkei (sub) says. Suzuki had used CVTs only in its Cervo and Wagon R, because they raise the price of the car by around $500. The CVTs should help Suzuki to clear tougher fuel economy standards that take effect in Japan in 2015. See, even Japan has a CAFÉ. (The latter is called a “kissa” in nihongo, but has nothing to do with kisses, nor cars.)

GM cash burn? Here’s the real Ding: Wonders never cease. GM is ready to pony up more money and increase its investment in their Chinese joint venture with SAIC, Gasgoo reports after having received the good word from SAIC Vice President and Shanghai GM General Manager Ding Lei. Ding also noted that “the reports on GM’s cash flow are neither accurate nor comprehensive.” Quick, send that to Washington before the boys arrive! If there’s no bailout, SAIC may pull out their wallet instead. According to Gasgoo, one of SAIC’s executives “admitted that it is quite reasonable and possible for the Shanghai automaker to acquire some GM’s OEM projects or joint venture assets in China.” Or maybe elsewhere.

Audi doubles Chinese capacity: Continuing its walk on water, Audi China announced that they will open a new plant in Northeast China in March, doubling their output capacity to 200K units. Their current factory in Changchun cranks out 100K units a year, and they already have sold over 100K so far, a rise of 19 percent, as Gasgoo has it. The new plant will build A4 and Q5 models.

GM and Ford go begging in Sweden: The Financial Times says Stephen Odell, Volvo’s chief executive, and Saab’s managing director Jan-Ake Jonsson separately asked money from Maud Olofsson, Sweden’s industry minister. Sweden is mulling the possibility of giving $248m to Saab and Volvo in direct aid or loan guarantees, maybe. “The discussion is open”, says Matts Carlsson, auto industry analyst at the Gothenburg Management Institute.

Hybrids and plug-ins are quiet. Too quiet: The blind can’t hear them. “Surprised bicyclists nearly fall off the saddle,” reports Automobilwoche. Praise the Lord for German ingenuity. Two suppliers already develop systems that will provide the necessary “wrrrrrrm.” With this invention, a small plug-in could “have the sound of a V8 or a turbo sports car,” the paper reports. Next: Fake gasoline smells, and it will be like the real thing.

German dealers see red: Two out of three car dealers in Germany will have red ink in their books this year, ZDK President Robert “Robbie” Rademacher said, and Autohaus brings the dire news. “Nobody’s making any money in the new car business,” Rademacher said. He sees a further reduction of 10 percent in sales for next year. 2.8m cars, that would be the lowest number for 20 years. Ford’s Bernhard Mattes agrees, he sees “3.1m at max” in Deutschland for 2009. Don’t they love cars anymore?

This is no joke: Your early morning WAS scribe will be on a plane from Beijing to the Fatherland tomorrow to conduct some necessary business. This has become unavoidable as TTAC’s payments don’t quite cover the very moderate Chinese expenses. Due to time constraints, the filing of WAS will most likely fall by the wayside. Or maybe it will turn into WAGO for a week: While America Got Up. In any case: Drastically less BS this week. Aren’t you glad?

Join the conversation
  • 50merc 50merc on Dec 01, 2008

    Hurry back, Bertel.

  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Dec 01, 2008

    "Hybrids and plug-ins are quiet. Too quiet" I call urban legend. I have seen this story several times over the last couple of years. Modern cars of all types don't make much engine noise if they are not accelerating. Most of the noise they make is generated by their tires. I doubt that tire noise differs between ICE and electric of the same size.

  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.